Making your work publicly accessible is essential for breaking into the competitive world of professional creative photography. As is the case with any independent artist, having a strong online portfolio is one of the primary ways you will earn an income and grow your client base.
Bearing this in mind, a stunning portfolio is one of the most important tools you can use to make your craft sustainably profitable. So, how do you achieve that? While a sharp eye for detail and visual balance are already key traits of a professional photographer, knowing how to translate those skills onto a website platform can be tricky.
Let’s unpack the science behind a great photography portfolio and look at how you can create one that’s altogether beautiful, compelling, and able to generate income.
Neuroaesthetics: When Science Meets Visual Art
Let’s start off with a definition: neuroaesthetics is the way our brains interpret the signals they receive. The study of neuroaesthetics deals with the relationship between what our minds and bodies perceive and how we respond to it on a neurological level.
Now all of this might sound a little overly intellectual. But the basic principle is this: creating a solid, profitable portfolio is largely about knowing how to curate images and formats in a way that is most pleasing to people’s minds.
That involves developing an understanding of aesthetics, visual balance, color palettes, and contrast. And as a photographer, you probably already have skills in this area.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of setting up a digital portfolio for potential clients to browse, you’ve come to the right place. Below are eight tips for both professional and amateur photographers in need of stunning, functional, and profitable portfolios.
Tips For Making Your Photography Portfolio The Best It Can Be
Photography and graphic design may both fall into the category of visual art, but their rules, compositions, formats, and styles almost all come from different planets.
Whether this is your first time or your tenth time making a photography portfolio, everyone could use a bit of guidance. Take a look at these tips:
1. Use the right site
A strong portfolio starts with the right platform. While there are loads of portfolio sites to choose from that offer a wide range of templates, only a few will give you the creative freedom and quality that you need.
Look for portfolio sites that have been created with visual art in mind, as this makes it easier than ever for you to showcase your work at the highest resolution and presentation possible. The right platform will help you appear more professional, thus attracting higher-paying clients.
2. Determine your photography niche
To make your portfolio as profitable as possible, you need consistency in your work. Paying clients want to know that you excel at what you do—and you can show that side of your work by determining a niche to operate within.
This is true across all types of freelance careers. Clients tend to choose artists who specialize in a certain style or genre rather than a jack-of-all-trades, because it indicates that the person they’re hiring has deeper knowledge and experience in their particular craft.
Some niches also tend to be more profitable than others. For instance, in 2023, some of the most in-demand photography niches will include:
- Event photography
- Real estate photography
- Fine art photography
- Commercial photography
- Social media photography
- Portrait photography
If you don’t already specialize in any of these categories, it may be worth exploring them as additional skills to add to your toolbox. The more aligned your photography is with current market trends, the easier it will be to turn a sustainable profit.
Determining a niche is also good for creating aesthetic cohesion on your portfolio site. Consistency can lend itself to quality, creative direction, and career awareness.
3. Ask your photography friends for guidance
Even though your portfolio is ultimately all about you, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use the perspectives of other professionals in your field. Now is the time to lean on your creative connections for feedback on the site and maybe even gain some insight into how you can improve it.
Making a portfolio is something that pretty much every serious creative professional has to do at some point. And the other photographers in your network may have valuable advice about how to make your work as profitable and attractive to clients as possible.
4. Make a good first and last impression
When clients are looking to hire a photographer, they’re looking to get impressed from start to finish. Making a good first impression is important because it sets a standard for the rest of your work and makes the portfolio as a whole more visually memorable.
But it would be an oversight to start off strong and get progressively weaker through the portfolio. Ending with work that’s as strong as the opening shots brings a necessary sense of visual completion and boosts clients’ perspectives of your work.
In your portfolio, you’ll also create your brand, and this needs to extend into other areas of your business too. You can use your branding everywhere, from your business cards and on other marketing material to your printable invoice templates and product packaging. This will create a lasting impression every step of the way.
5. Understand your target audience
One of the most powerful ways to make your photography portfolio more profitable is to gain a deeper understanding of your target market.
When it comes to selling any product, the first thing any business does is perform market research. The more you know about the kind of clients you are trying to attract, the easier it will be to curate your portfolio in a way that realistically appeals to them.
6. Get good copy to explain your profession
As much as a photography portfolio is about photographs, it should also be a place that potential clients can visit to learn more about you, the face behind the lens.
Bad copy looks unprofessional and sloppy—two things you naturally need to avoid if you want to earn money from your craft. If you’re not a skilled writer, bite the bullet and hire a professional copywriter to produce a top-tier artist bio and career description for your site.
Put Your Best Photos Forward
When it comes down to it, making a profitable portfolio is really just about showing off your best work and using a professional, tidy-looking platform. With the help of compelling visuals, seamless formatting, and easy-to-navigate layouts, your portfolio will sell itself.